Lye, West Midlands:
Windsor Castle (Sadler’s Brewery Tap)
Sunday 22nd November 2015
I was surprised to discover that the Sadler’s story actually starts in Oldbury and not Lye. The Windsor Castle in that town was known to have existed in 1851, possible opening its doors for the first time a year or so earlier.
The first involvement of the Sadler family came in 1861 when the pub was taken on by Benjamin Thomas Sadler. Thereafter the family remained owners through several generations. Several were the licensees, later they employed others to perform this function.
The brewery was built behind this pub, opening in 1900 and supplied it and an ever-growing estate that eventual encompassed twelve houses.
It changed in 1927 when the Windsor Castle Brewery was taken over and closed. It was recorded from a very reliable source that the new owners were the Giggs and Brettell Brewery of Sparkbrook, which is a suburb of, Birmingham.
However, another source states that brewery was taken over by Holt Brothers Brewery of Aston in 1912. What I think happened was that the Giggs and Brettell Company remained as an entity within Holts. My research discovered that it wasn’t wound up until 1964 at Companies House. Holt’s brewery was taken over by Ansells of Aston Cross in 1934.
By 1935 the Windsor Castle was operated by Atkinson’s Brewery of Aston Green, probably as a result of the Ansells take-over of Holt. It was probably leased by Giggs and Brettell as there would have been several Ansell’s (formerly Holt’s) pubs close by. Subsequent histories of these breweries are complex but are not relevant as the Windsor Castle sold its last pint on 11th June 1956 and its licence was transferred to another pub.
And that was that, or might it have been thought so, but everything changed in 2004 when descendent Nigel Sadler re-established the company. This was at Lye Cross, a good location where two major roads intersect. The brewery was of 10 barrels (bbls) capacity and their beer soon gained a good name in West Midlands pubs. The next move was to establish their own pub.
The brewery was located in the yard of Sadler Print, the family firm. Part of this building was set to be the new pub. Under the Sadler’s management it opened in April, 2006. It looks like a 150 year old pub yet it isn’t. Latterly its upstairs floor has been converted to letting rooms. On this visit I was in the West Midlands for a long weekend and stayed at the Windsor Castle for three nights.
Sadler’s brew a large range of beers and on the three nights I stayed at the Windsor Castle I used its bar every evening. There are ten hand pumps and number of beers available varied between six and nine at any one time.
Over the weekend there were eleven different cask beers offered. From their permanent range there were: Mellow Yellow (4.1%); Worcester Sorcerer (4.3%); Jack’s Pale Ale (JPA) (3.8%); Peaky Blinder (4.6%); Mud City Stout (6.6%) and Thin Ice (4.5%). From their Monthly range was Raven (4.8%), the November beer. Then there were a number of beers that I assume were specials: Granpa Sadler’s Ginger Beer (4.5%); Winter Spice (4.7%); Kimber Drop (4.1%) and Gladstone (4.2%).
The company is very progressive and has recently expanded. Around £500,000 has been invested in a brand new brewery, also in Lye. It is known as Sadler’s Brewhouse and Bar and is located in a unit on an industrial estate that has been created on the site of the old railway goods yard at Lye station. As can be detected in the name it is also a bar and is open from Wednesday to Sunday. I called in on a Friday night and it was extremely busy, so I’ll have to revisit at another time before I write a BeerVisits article.
This new brewery has a capacity of 30 barrels (bbls). Bottled beer has become a big deal for Sadler’s as they have supply contracts with many supermarkets and needed to get a lot bigger to service them.
However I believe the brewery behind the pub is still doing its job as there has been no mention of it closing. This may explain the large number of special beers when I visited. Another supply arrangement is with Greene King and some of their pubs in the West Midlands.
They are looking to increase the number of their own pubs and bars. A start has been made with the opening of the Sadler’s Brewhouse and Barbecue in Southampton. Despite its name they do not brew there as the beer comes from Lye.
Back to the Windsor Castle, the entrance is via the side rather than the front door that is in Stourbridge Road, that one is not used.
Once inside you notice small areas, former rooms, on either side which are mainly used for dining. Stepping into the main room the bar counter is on the left with some tables in front.
Should you keep on walking there is a step down to another room with some tables and chairs, also a shelf along the window for some upright drinking.
This is a great pub to visit and to stay in. I am told that the food is highly regarded. Should the main meals be as good as the breakfast, then that is definitely the case. There was a fantastic selection in the mornings, all the usual favourites and including smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. The salmon was the true smoke house variety, not like that from supermarkets. A superb pub to visit for any reason, but especially for beer.
Windsor Castle, 7 Stourbridge Road, Lye, DY9 7DG. Tel: 01384 897809
Hours: Monday-Friday 12.00-23.00; Saturday 08.00-23.00; Sunday: 12.00-23.00
The pub is well-served by public transport. The No 9 bus operates from Birmingham city centre through Halesowen to Lye and on to Stourbridge bus station, which is outside Stourbridge Town railway station. It is very frequent during the day Monday to Saturday when it operates every 7 to 8 minutes, less frequently in the evenings and on Sundays. Another useful bus route is 276. This will get you to Dudley passing close to the Vine Inn, home of Batham’s brewery.
Lye railway station is less than five minutes walk away. It is served by trains from Birmingham Snow Hill that often start at Stratford upon Avon. They continue to Stourbridge Junction and Worcester.